Butterflies and the Barbed Wires by Vanaja Banagiri
I picked up this book Butterflies and the Barbed Wires, to read about the city I now live in. As it has been written by one of its prominent citizens, a true blue Hyderabadi. Whose earlier book Hyderabad Hazir hai I had reviewed a while back. The story is rooted in the 1978 communal riots in the city that displaced many lives. Author has picked up the story of a mother and daughter who were separated and eventually meet through the story.
The story is simple. And Hyderabad is as much the protagonist in the story as the main characters. The two worlds that mother and daughter live in converge when the daughter lands up in Hyderabad with a job. And the mother is in depression because of her suppressed emotions. There are too many characters around the two who are given as much space in the story as the protagonists. Going into the background of each of them and what brings them to their present state of mind and lifestyle. When I saw the story of a born Muslim growing up in Hindu household, for a minute I thought of Rabindranath Tagore’s Gora, but the comparison ended there.
It looks like the author has written about characters that are too close to her. And hence went into minutest detail of every character. I think besides the 2-3 main characters that were not needed, and somewhere authors must leave a little space for imagination. A little space for reader’s interpretations. Putting everything right there in black and white, explaining to the extent of justifying every little action can limit the reader’s role in the story. The story is simple. And predictable in a way. But the climax happens too fast as through the story you are just speculating how it will happen. And it just happens in a jiffy. I liked the end though, that is devoid of any melodrama and is quite realistic.
Author’s love for Hyderabad drips from every page. She has tried to tell the story of the city. Of its little know quirky culture, of its food and little known Dakhani dialect. This for me was the biggest take away from the book. As I could connect with each one of them living in the city at the moment. At times it feels she is more focused on painting the city than the flow of the story. As she often stops to describe the history, geography, and culture of the city at regular intervals. The elite in Hyderabad remains her forte as she had the same covered in her other book Hyderabad Hazir Hai too.
Read Butterflies and the Barbed Wires, if you want to know the life of elite in the city of Hyderabad!